Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Luxarazzi 101: Countess Marie Kinsky of Wchinitz and Tettau

As it is a slow news day, it is a good day as any to have a look at one of the members of the Princely Family of Liechtenstein, the Princess herself. In today's part, we will have a look at the life and family of Princess Marie when she was still a countess. A second part to be published later on will deal with her life since her wedding in 1967.

Born on 14 April 1940 in Prague, Bohemia, Countess Marie Aglaë Kinsky of Wchinitz and Tettau is the fourth of seven children of the late Count Ferdinand Carl Kinsky Count of Wchinitz and his wife née Countess Henriette of Ledebur-Wicheln.

Princess Marie as a baby
(Photo: Liechtensteinisches Landesarchiv)
The Kinskys are one of the oldest and most illustrious noble families of Bohemia. Their family history dates back to 1237 when they were firstly mentioned. Legend has it that they are actually much older: When a beautiful king’s daughter went out hunting in the forest one day, she was attacked by a group of wolves. All of her attendants left the scene apart from a young man who fought off the wolves and thus saved the princess. To thank him, the young man was ennobled by the king.

The young Countess Marie spent the first five years of her life on the Bohemian properties of the family but at the end of the Second World War, her life changed radically. One Sunday afternoon, Czechs came to the family’s castle and told them that they had to leave immediately. Only given ten minutes to pack their belongings, they had to leave almost everything behind and were brought to a Koncentračni Tabor, a Czech concentration camp.

[In case you did not know... After the end of the war, the Czechoslovakian government had kept some of the formerly German concentration camps open to inter many Germans left in the country as well as Polish and Hungarian people who had to work as forced labourers. For the first year they were called concentration camps but under international pressure, the name was changed later on.]

Countess Marie's maternal grandfather, Count Eugen of Ledebur-Wicheln, died during their time in the concentration camp in November 1945. After a few months, the family was able to leave the concentration camp with the help of a French officer. They fled to the Bohemian Forest region where they were hidden by a family friend for a month until an American priest helped them to leave the country. Much like the Liechtensteins, the Kinskys were stripped of all their properties based on the Beneš decrees.

The Kinsky family
(Photo: Liechtensteinisches Landesarchiv)
After they made it safely to Germany, the family moved to Ering in southeastern Bavaria where they lived at the Eringer Schloss with the baronial family Sedlnitzky-Odrowaz of Choltitz. The sister of Countess Marie’s mother and a daughter of Baron Ivo Maximilian of Sedlnitzky were friends and the families had agreed during wartime that they would help each other out if one of them got into trouble.

Both of the Sedlnitzky family's sons were killed in action and the baron died in 1946 following a heart attack. Thus Countess Marie’s father, Count Ferdinand, took up the management of the family’s estates for the next few years. Marie and her siblings attended the local Volksschule (board school) in Ering. In 1949, she changed to the Heimschule Kloster Wald in Baden-Wuerttemberg, a Benedictine boarding school which, to his day, is very popular with the German nobility. The school had been paid for by relatives and friends of the family who still owned properties.

The Kinskys then moved to Munich in 1950 when the Sedlnitzky family had expanded due to their daughters' marriages. Count Ferdinand subsequently started to work for Count Karl-Theodor of Toerring-Jettenbach.

Countess Marie graduated from school in 1957 and then moved to Great Britain for a while to improve her English language skills. She later also lived in France to groove her French.

She planned on studying art history upon her return to Germany but her family did not have much money and thus could not afford to pay for long university studies. So instead she started to attend the Academy for Applied Arts at the University of Munich for six semesters and graduated with a diploma. Afterwards, she worked as a commercial graphic artists in Dachau near Munich until her engagement in 1965.

Marie and Hans-Adam in 1966
(Photo: Liechtensteiner Volksblatt)
The connection between the Kinsky and Liechtenstein families had already existed long before Countess Marie met her future husband, then Hereditary Prince Hans-Adam. Her mother's sister Countess Karoline of Ledebur-Wicheln had been married to Prince Johannes Franz of Liechtenstein, a cousin of the Prince Franz-Joseph II, Hans-Adam's father. In addition, Princess Gina's mother was a born Countess Kinsky of Wchinitz and Tettau as well as other relations dating further back.

In the summer of 1961, Countess Marie paid a visit to Liechtenstein's capital Vaduz to visit her aunt and uncle. While out and about with friends, she bumped into Princess Gina who invited them to come to the Schloss where the family lived as her sons were home on holiday and bored. Though Countess Marie and her friends weren't too thrilled at first because they thought that the princes were too young, they decided to visit anyway.

While Prince Hans-Adam II claims that it was love at first sight for him and that he knew from the minute that Countess Marie walked into the door that she would be his future wife, his chosen one wasn't so sure. Even though Countess Marie considered the Hereditary Prince to be nice and intelligent, she simply thought of him as a young boy. Born in 1945, Prince Hans-Adam is five years her junior.

Being famously stubborn, Hereditary Prince Hans-Adam did not give up though and tried to pursue Countess Marie who was in love with someone else at the time. Eventually, the prince's persistence paid off but now Marie's father wasn't too sure about the man who wanted to marry his daughter considering him to be too young. During a visit to Nizza where Countess Marie was staying with her brother at the time, Hereditary Prince Hans-Adam managed to convince his future brother-in-law, and through his advocacy also Countess Marie's father, that he would a good choice.

In January 1955, the Princely House announced the engagement of Hereditary Prince Hans-Adam, 20 at the time, and Countess Marie, 25. The wedding would take place about one and a half years later (though luckily you won't need to wait as long for the second part of this biography).


  1. Koncentračni Tabor, a Czech concentration camp - it is not a name of camp it is just czech term which means concentration camp. I woul also like to note, that there is a difference between concentration camps and extermination camps (for people who do not distinguish it, it is a quite big difference). From your article it looks that those camps were similar to nazi ones, but they weren´t (that is probably also one reason for changing the term), its purpose was different (I mean purpose after WW2 and before communist seizure of power).

  2. I know that it's simply the Czech word for concentration camp. People often forget that concentration camps aren't a purely German thing. The Nazis actually took the word from the British, who had used it during the Anglo-Boer War.

    As you said, there is a difference between concentration and death camps. There were hundreds of concentration camps in Nazi-Germany and the occupied regions, while there were only six death camps (Auschwitz-Birkenau, Chelmno, Sobibor, Majdanek, Belzec and Treblinka). While concentration camps main purpose was to inter people, the aim of of death or extermination camps was to systematically kill people.

    After the end of World War II, Germans was interred in the Czech camps without any trial but due to the fact that they were Germans, regardless whether they had been Nazis or not (many in fact were children). There was great hunger, they were forced laborers, faced physical and psychological violence and medical care was largely insufficient. The Manchester Guardian reported that the number of calories given to each prisoner on a daily basis was below the number Bergen-Belsen, a German concentration camp (where Anne Frank died). Czech historian Tomáš Staněk estimates that between 1945 and 1946, 24,000 to 40,000 Germans died in the Czech camps.

    In no way it is implied in the article that the Czech concentration camps were death camps.

  3. Have always wanted to know more about this Princess, so many thanks. Am enjoying reading about the Liechtensteins - the new kids on the blog :))

  4. Just one point: It is not true that all ethnic Germans were interred. In fact - it was important if they declared during the war being of German nationality, which in fact many did (of course big number did it because of fear), but some not. Many Germans stayed after war just because they were explicit anti-nazis during the war (but of course some of those were also interred or they went to Germany voluntarily). There was also chance for those who were planned to be interred to prove they were not collaboraters or something like this. I did not studied Beneš decrees a lot but this all is in those decrees as I read iit n one book dealing with this problem of Beneš decrees. Sad is that Beneš decrees are still misinterpreted...

  5. The Beneš decrees and the expropriatation of Germans is another thing than the detention of Germans in concentration camps.

    I did not say that all Germans were interred though I could have been clearer by adding numbers. I, however, fail to see how children could be put into those camps because children could have hardly been Nazis. It was the same thing that the Nazis did when they placed family members of anti-Nazis into concentration camps, kin liability or "Sippenhaft" as they called it.


    As you are probably aware the Beneš decrees refer to a number of decrees issued by Edvard Beneš.

    The presidential decree of 19 May 1945 (No. 5/1945) ordered the sequestration of private and business properties of Germans and Hungarians and handed them over into state administration.

    The presidential decree of 25 October 1945 (No. 108/1945) ordered the confiscation of property owned by persons of German or Hungarian nationality previously sequestrated with the "exception of persons who demonstrate their loyalty to the Czecheslovakian Republic, have never committed any offence against the Czech or the Slovakian nations, and who either actively participated in the fight for the liberation of the country, or have suffered under Nazi or fascist terror."


    Considering that someone like Adolph Schwarzenberg *, husband of Princess Hilda of Luxembourg, had their properties taken away, it is (in my opinion) save to assume that the Beneš decrees were indeed used to force the Germans and Hungarians to leave the country. If the German or Hungarian in question could be of any use to the Czecheslovakian state (crucial for the industry e.g.), it was possible for them to remain in the country.


    * The Prince Adolph of Schwarzenberg was a staunch anti-nazi. He welcomed Beneš himself at one of his properties in the late 1930's and gave him money for the defense of Czecheslovakia. During the "Anschluss" of Austria, he ordered black flags to be flown over his Viennese properties and put up "Jews welcome" signs at his palace's gardens when all other parks were closed for the Jewish population. He refused to meet Hitler and to replace his Czech managers with ethnic Germans. He then fled the occupied country and took up residence in Italy and later the United States. He remained an anti-nazi and supported the Czecheslovakian resistance.

    Adolph Schwarzenberg handed over the management of his estates to his adoptive son, Heinrich, who kept up his uncle's stance against the Nazis and in August 1940, all the family's properties within the Third Reich were confiscated. Heinrich Schwarzenberg was arrested on direct orders of Heinrich Himmler, leader of the SS, and lived in police prison and concentration camps for the next four years until he was released and had to work as a forced labouror.

    I think it is save to assume that Heinrich Schwarzenberg has "suffered under Nazi or fascist terror", that Adolph Schwarzenberg was a "person(s) who demonstrate their (his) loyalty to the Czecheslovakian Republic" and that none of them has "never committed any offence against the Czech or the Slovakian nations". Yet, their properties were taken away based upon the Beneš decrees and the appeal lodged by his lawyer within the two weeks deadline was never considered. In 1947 the Lex Schwarzenberg came into place and only in 1989 after the Velvet Revolution the family got parts of their properties back.